Nov 14, 2012

Have A SAFE Holiday!

"The turkey is done when the meat
thermometer registers 165°F."
The holidays are the best time of the year to celebrate with food, but they are also the most likely time to deliver a dose of foodborne illness to your guests. Give them the gift of safe food this holiday season. Take the time to read and understand food safety guidelines before you cook.

With the holidays fast approaching, most of us start thinking of the Thanksgiving feast, which starts the endless hours in the kitchen preparing holiday culinary favorites.

It comes as no surprise then that the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, have the highest reported incidents of foodborne illness. Note, I said “reported.”

Many cases of illness are less severe and do not require hospitalization and therefore go unreported. Certainly we have all had bouts of post-meal dysentery and thought, “Could something I ate have made me sick?”

Hand washing is the number one way to prevent foodborne illness. Use soap, warm water and friction. Sing Happy Birthday twice. Use a paper towel to dry. Be sure to wash handles of cupboard, stove, refrigerator and utensils so as not to cross-contaminate.

Let’s talk turkey. Did you know that turkey was never mentioned as being on the original Thanksgiving table? It is more likely they shared duck, venison or fish in celebration of the colony’s first corn harvest. At some point, the turkey became our Thanksgiving tradition and today, nearly 90 percent of Americans prepare a roasted turkey for their feast.

Traditional cooking techniques have been handed down over generations and many of them are unsafe and outdated. Here’s a refresher for safe and handling of your main dish.

Thawing — Turkeys, or any meat, must be kept below 40°F for safe thawing to prevent growth of harmful bacteria. Therefore, thawing your turkey in the refrigerator is optimal. But plan ahead, allowing 24 hours for each 5 pounds. Keep it wrapped but place it in a pan to prevent juices from leaking onto other foods. The average turkey is about 20 pounds, so that means to allow 5 to 6 days to thaw completely. In a rush? You can thaw by submerging the wrapped turkey in cold tap water as long as you change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. Cook immediately after thawing. A turkey thawed in the microwave should also be cooked immediately.

Stuffing — It is not recommended that you stuff your bird. Research has indicated that the density of the stuffing in the center of the bird does not reach internal temperatures high enough to kill harmful bacteria. Instead, cook your stuffing in a separate dish. You can rest the neck or other parts on top of the stuffing to give you flavoring. The bonus besides food safety is that your bird will cook more quickly when the internal cavity is not stuffed. Insert a thermometer into cooked stuffing to be certain it has reached 165°F.

Cooking — Do not wash the bird, since washing scatters bacteria that may contaminate other foods and surfaces. Clean and sanitize all surfaces after handling the bird since poultry have the highest risk of salmonella. Set oven temperature no lower than 325°F and place the turkey breast-side up in roasting pan. Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, being careful not to touch bone. Cover. Baste occasionally. The turkey is done when the meat thermometer registers 165°F. Juices should be clear, not pink. A 20-pound turkey may take four to five hours to cook fully.

Storing — Refrigerate cooked foods within two hours of removing from heat. That means no sitting around the table having conversation and dessert with the bird on the counter. Refrigerate immediately. For best use, consume within three to four days (if there’s anything left by then).

Reheating — Reheat leftovers, turkey or any other foods, until they reach 165°F to kill any bacteria that may have grown during serving or before refrigeration. The USDA has a Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-764-6854, available Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific time.

Avoid cross contamination

This is when bacteria from one food spreads to another. Keep raw meat juices away from other foods and separate from cooked meat. Use one cutting board for meat and a separate one for vegetables and fruit. And remember, when tasting, no “double dipping.” That goes for putting out chips and candies, too. Use utensils rather than hands to reach into community foods.

Safe refrigeration

When we make larger meals, we tend to pack our refrigerator with warm foods hoping they will cool quickly. But, especially with dense foods like mashed potatoes, stuffing and casseroles, foods need to be cooled BEFORE they go into the refrigerator. Otherwise warm foods will raise the temperature of the fridge and nothing will get cooled, giving bacteria ample opportunity to grow.

Cool foods by moving to shallow containers or placing in ice baths until it reaches 70°F. By now you should be realizing your food thermometer is your best friend.

Then move to the refrigerator. Buying a refrigerator thermometer is an inexpensive way to ensure your fridge maintains a safe temperature below 40°F.

Risky business

Keep in mind that seniors, pregnant women, children and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk for foodborne illness. A compromised immune system could include those with diabetes, heart disease, auto immune disease, cancer or those with allergies. So, even though you may not get sick from poorly handled foods, your family or other guests might.

Credit for the excellent article above goes to this website:

Holiday Recipes:
Roast Turkey, "The Butterfly Method"
1 whole fresh turkey (12-16 pounds)
2-4 tablespoons canola oil or melted butter
2-4 tablespoons poultry seasoning

"Butterflying" the turkey is a wonderful way to have the turkey cook faster and be evenly browned and cooked all at once—no fearing the breasts will dry out before the thighs are done. To butterfly the bird, use a large, heavy bread knife (my choice) or really heavy-duty kitchen shears. While the bird is still in the sink after washing, turn it over and saw away at the back along both sides of the spine from the bottom up, removing the whole backbone. Use the backbone for stock. It takes some effort but is well worth it! Once the backbone is removed, turn the turkey over onto a roasting pan, and push down with all your weight on the breastbone. The turkey will suddenly go flat with the thigh and leg portion sticking out. Season and roast as usual at 325°F, and you can figure the bird will be fully cooked in one hour less than if you had left it whole. Remove the turkey from the oven when the thermometer has popped out, the juices run clear when pierced in the thigh with a knife, or a meat thermometer reads 165°F. Place the turkey on a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving, which is just the amount of time needed to prepare gravy. Makes 8-12 servings.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
3-5 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/2-1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2-1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4-1/2 cup sour cream
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk
1/2-1 teaspoon salt

About 1 hour before dinner, fill a heavy 4 quart pot 2/3 full with water, add 1 teaspoon salt, the rosemary, and bring to a rolling boil (this will take 10-15 minutes). Add the potatoes. Bring the potatoes back to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Once the potatoes are boiling, they will be done in 15-20 minutes (fairly tender when pierced with a fork). Drain the potatoes, and return to the pot. Discard the rosemary, cover and return to the stove with the heat off for a few minutes so the potatoes will dry. Add garlic, white pepper, sour cream, milk, and salt, then mash with a hand masher or whip with a beater, depending on the texture you prefer (a mixer will create fine, pureed potatoes, hand-mashing will yield chunkier, denser potatoes). When mashed, cover the potatoes tightly and leave on the back burner of the stove until ready to serve (it is warm there even with the burner turned off). Makes 8-12 servings.

Pork Sausage & Bread Stuffing
1 large loaf of crusty bread, torn into one inch pieces
1 pound pork sausage
1 small onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
turkey liver and giblets (optional)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 cup red grape juice
1/2 cup craisins (craisins are dried sweetened cranberries)
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Rip the crusty bread into small chunks and place in a large bowl. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, brown sausage, minced onion and turkey liver plus giblets if desired, sprinkle with poultry seasoning. When browned and fully cooked, remove giblets and liver to cool so they can be minced into tiny bits. Toss the sausage and onion in with the bread. Pour the red grape juice into the hot pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to get the tasty brown bits. When the liquid has reduced by about half, add craisins, toss to combine with liquid, then add to the bread. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk and add to the bread. At this point the liver and giblets should be cool enough to mince. Add to the stuffing bowl and mix everything well. Place in a covered baking dish or cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 60 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking for a nice golden color. After removing the foil, drizzle a bit of the cooked turkey juices over the top for the final 10 minutes of cooking time if desired. Makes 8-10 servings.

The Best Cranberry Sauce
1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries, cleaned
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 orange, zest grated and juiced
1 lemon, zest grated and juiced
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Cook the cranberries, sugar, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the skins pop open. Add the apple, zests, and juices and cook for 15 more minutes. Remove from the heat and add the raisins and nuts. Let cool, and serve chilled. Makes 4 cups.

Green Beans with Pecans, 
Sesame Seeds & Honey
1 pound fresh green beans
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup pecans
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons honey

Wash and stem the beans. This can be done a day ahead of time and the beans placed in a zip top bag in the fridge. Bring a pot of salted water (at least 2 quarts) to a rolling boil. This takes up to 15 minutes. Add the green beans and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse the beans to stop the cooking, but leave them warm. Heat the butter/oil in a medium pan and simmer on low with the pecans. Once they are lightly browned, add the sesame seeds and the honey, stir regularly. Add the beans to the pan and toss with the seasoned nut mix. Taste for additional seasoning. Place in a serving bowl and cover with foil. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 8-10 servings.

Sautéed Green Beans with Red Pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound fresh green beans, stem end removed
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 medium-size red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium-size sweet onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Bring a pot of water and salt to a boil. Add green beans to boiling water and cook 1 minute; drain. Plunge green beans into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain well, pressing between paper towels. Stir together brown sugar, soy sauce, and Cajun seasoning. Sauté bell pepper, onion, garlic, and green beans in hot oil in a large skillet over high heat 4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt if needed. Remove from heat; add soy sauce mixture to green bean mixture, and stir to coat. Serve while hot. Makes 4 servings.

Fresh Corn Pudding
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
5 cups FRESH yellow corn kernels cut off the cob (6 to 8 ears)
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
4 extra-large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup Ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (6 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar,
plus extra for top

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Grease the inside of an 8 to 10-cup baking dish. Melt the butter in a very large saute pan and saute the corn and onion over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Cool slightly. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and half-and-half in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and then the Ricotta cheese. Add the basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked corn mixture and grated cheddar, and then pour into the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with more grated cheddar. Place the dish in a larger pan and fill the pan 1/2 way up the sides of the dish with hot tap water. Bake the pudding for 40 to 45 minutes until the top begins to brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Cucumber Mint Salad
2 large cucumbers, (I like to use Japanese cucumbers, much crisper)
1/2 cup minced red onion or chives
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped fine

Slice the cucumbers in either thin rounds or half-moons. Mix with the minced onions. Blend yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and mint together. Toss dressing with cucumbers and onions and serve immediately. Note: Make this recipe in small batches. If left to sit overnight it gets watery, so try to make just enough for a meal, and toss the dressing just before serving.

Pumpkin Muffins
2 medium eggs
3 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup pureed cooked pumpkin
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix until smooth. Fill sprayed muffin tins with mixture until full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.

Poached Pears In Cranberry Sauce
1 quart (4 cups) cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup light corn syrup
8 slices (1/4-inch thick) unpeeled fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks (2 to 3 inches)
8 slightly under-ripe Bosc pears

Combine cranberry juice, corn syrup, ginger and cinnamon sticks in heavy 4-quart saucepan; bring to a boil. While mixture is coming to a boil, peel, half, and core pears. Add to syrup mixture in saucepan. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until pears are tender. With slotted spoon transfer pears to shallow serving dish. Remove ginger and cinnamon sticks. Discard all but 2 cups syrup in saucepan. Bring to boil; boil 10 to 12 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Spoon sauce over pears. Serve with sweetened whipped cream. Makes 8 servings.

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